By Encompass Outreach Group
Mothers play a significant role in our lives in many different ways, from giving us life, to caring for and protecting us, to teaching us about the world. As babies, the bond with our mothers is the first and deepest bond of our lives. How our mothers raised us is tied in directly to our formation, our self-awareness, and how we view the world. Another way the role of our mother impacts our lives is through our romantic relationships. Here’s how:
How We Behave
The role our mother plays in our upbringing determines a lot about how we behave later as adults. This is true for how we behave with romantic partners as well. Generally, same-sex parents are the most similar to us and therefore act as a model for our behavior, but opposite-sex parents are projected into potential partners. This can also work in the opposite way, with many people searching out someone different than their opposite-sex parent. If we bonded more with our mother, we are more likely to emulate her behavior, including in the relationships we pursue. On the other hand, if we identified ourselves more with our father, we would be more likely to seek out someone like our mother in romantic relationships.
How We Show Affection
Another important role of a mother is showing affection and caring for her children, which leads to bonding between mother and child. Bonding happens when physical needs are met, like feeding, consoling when crying, and hugging. We also pick up at a young age how our parents show affection to each other. This directly affects how we understand, give, and receive love and affection as adults. The type of attachments we form with romantic partners can be traced back to the kind of affection and care we were shown as children and saw between our parents. This is also true for negative relationships, as we may not seek them out because we enjoy them, but because they are familiar to us since that’s how we experienced our parents’ relationship.
How We Communicate
The role of our mother also determines how we communicate with others. This is especially true for how we communicate with our partners in our relationships, because, just like with affection, we witness how our parents communicate with each other and imitate it. Through learning our communication patterns from our parents’ relationship, we also learn how to handle conflict. For better or for worse, the way our parents dealt with issues is likely to be the same way that we deal with issues in our romantic relationships as adults.
Encompass Connection Center helps couples learn how to resolve conflict and create fulfilling, productive relationships. We offer a free relationship assessment to determine your relationship’s strengths and potential threats. For more help, look into our RINGS Experience, which includes marriage strengthening exercises and a coaching model to help build real intimacy and growth skills.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.